Hitting an amusement park with the family is a rite of summer. If you happen to have young children, you don't even need to leave New York City to do it. Victorian Gardens in Central Park, Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel in Queens and Fantasy Shore at Midland Beach all specialize in little kid rides like gentle flying swings, choo-choo trains, super-slow carousels and mini-roller coasters. Even Coney Island's more grown-up attractions, Deno's Wonder Wheel and Luna Park, offer rides that won't cause whiplash.
But there's another NYC amusement park that's great for young children that is, for whatever reason, comparatively unknown. I'd spied Adventurer's Family Entertainment Center from the Belt Parkway many times as we sped by on our way to Coney and I always wanted to visit. So this year, when my 2-year-old passed the 36-inch mark (the minimum height requirement for most of the park's rides), we decided to check out Adventurer's. Not only is it closer to my Bay Ridge home, it's less expensive and crowded than its Coney counterparts.
Completely overhauled since its Nellie Bly Amusement Park days, Adventurer's Family Entertainment Center is located in Bath Beach, Brooklyn near the waterfront and has a nice selection of rides best for children ages 2 to 8. You'll find lots of old favorites here, like the mini coaster, a merry-go-round, planes and motorcycles, a giant slide and the ubiquitous train. There were about 10 rides my preschoolers could do themselves, and maybe six on which my 2-year-old needed to be accompanied by an adult. (Unfortunately, with my 9-month old in tow, my toddler was out of luck.) The height restrictions for certain rides seemed overly strict compared to other parks (42 inches to ride the carousel, really?), and my 2-year-old struggled (translation: screamed) a few times when he couldn't go on an attraction he'd done elsewhere. Be prepared to hop on a few rides if your child is between 30 and 42 inches. There are some fun activities for young school-age kids like a miniature golf course and go-karts but Adventurer's is definitely best for the under 6 set.
We went on a weekday and the place was practically deserted—a big change from Coney. That said, due to the lack of visitors, some employees were responsible for running two attractions at once, so we noticed a few kids waiting at rides without operators for a bit. On weekdays, three-hour unlimited-ride wristbands cost $24 and if your kids are tall enough to do most of the rides alone, that's definitely the way to go. Session times are set from noon-3pm, 3pm-6pm and 6pm-9pm. If you do need to accompany your kids on any rides, you must pay. Rides average $3.25 to $6.50 so keep that in mind. Wristbands aren't offered on the weekends but you can buy tickets in bulk at a slight discount.
The food is junky and overpriced: $3 hot dogs and cotton candy and watered-down lemonade. Luckily, you're allowed to leave and reenter, even with a wristband. Better yet, bring your own food and sit at the shaded picnic tables. I entered the park with water and snacks without a problem.
Adventurer's is a lot like Victorian Gardens in Central Park, just a lot less crowded. I asked a couple of employees if the park was usually so dead (I think we saw 10 other children the whole time we were there) and they told me that while it is busier on weekends and in the evenings, it never gets mobbed. Is it Six Flags? Definitely not. But it's a heck of a lot cheaper, the bathrooms are clean and there are enough decent rides that my kids didn't want to leave. I know we'll go back at least once more this summer!
Adventurer's Family Entertainment Center is located at 1824 Shore Parkway at 25th Avenue in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. Visit the website for up-to-date info on hours and prices.
Find out about other awesome seasonal activities in our Summer Fun Guide.
This post originally published in August 2013.